Thursday, March 27, 2008

Are you aware of cyclists on the road?

This is an absolutely brilliant PSA. In England.

We need something like this over here-- and Portland could benefit greatly from airing something like this.

The video underscores the tendency for motorists to only be aware of other cars around them (sure, other cars and SUVs are the only other users out there that pose a threat) and the need to be aware of other users of the roadways. Furthermore it illustrates the need for cyclists to be VISIBLE; to stand out from their surroundings and be seen.

Well, I can feel the evangelist inside me getting revved up so I'm going to just leave this post at this:

When we're in cars we need to LOOK INTO bike lanes before making a move, turning, etc. Slow down and look around!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why I race-- I'm not even very good

I've raced off and on ever since my last year or two of High School. Club races, an occasional MTB race when time and finances aligned properly.

With my discovery of cyclocross in 2005 I began to race more. I was crazy for cyclocross after just my first time and I wanted more racing. More.

So in the summer of 2006 I tried a few road crits. 1.) Road crits are for those possessed of fantastic lung capacity and leg power and 2.) Bikes with downtube shifters don't belong. There also appears to be little opportunity, or room, for chance.

In the messy world of off-road racing -- and cyclocross falls squarely into this category -- Chance and Lucky Break lurk around every corner and behind every obstacle. They love to puncture tires, break components, and surprise riders. In every MTB and cyclocross race I've been in there have been plenty of bike motors that have had trouble with tricky downhills, speedy descents down rough terrain or even the "simple" act of dismounting and remounting the bike.

I'm definitely far outside the realm of "bike motor". I have to work hard to attain even "average" in terms of aerobic capacity and leg strength. I obviously have the wrong genetic background. Or maybe I just love pizza too much.

I used to wonder just why I even bothered to race. I can go out and ride -- push myself to the brink of vomiting -- and not have to pay anything. I don't have to get up early. I can have breakfast and lunch at home with my family. I used to think that I raced to see what I could do-- because we never really push ourselves as hard as we do when we're racing, do we. "Let's go for a personal best."

Then I happened upon a quote credited to Steve Prefontaine. It was under a bottlecap. I can't remember the drink. "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts..." There's a bit more to the quote than that, but that's was all that was under the bottlecap. THAT was why I raced. To see who had the most guts. It doesn't take guts to crush the competition if you've got a killer genetic background and the favorable circumstances. Mere mortals will read about you in the magazines. It takes guts to fling one's pudgy, pasty body into the fray on the weekend when one's week was filled with deadlines and boring meetings and the million little slings and arrows of this modern life. "Yeah, I've no hope of winning. But so what-- I'll tilt at the windmills anyway."

I raced last December 2nd at the USGP Cyclocross race. I think I probably came in somewhere near the back. Not DFL. But close-ish. It was cold cold cold. I never really warmed up. Afterwards, as I was rolling around the exhibitor area, I caught some guy (I remember him passing me) indicating me as he talked with a friend. "I don't know why guys like that make themselves suffer through these races." For a moment I felt like a terrible fool. I was cold and wet and shivering. He was laughing and drinking a beer. I suppose the race was nothing but a lark for him. He was wearing a Santa suit. Bastard.

I suppose I race to suffer. I mean why does it matter to guys like that? We all have our own reasons.

Well, today I found something that I think perfectly expresses why I put myself through the apparently pointless suffering.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." --Theodore Roosevelt

Sure, that guy was in the same race I was. But maybe not.

That's why I race. So that my place will never be with the cold and timid souls who knew neither victory or defeat. I'm not sidestepping the challenge of the race; I'm pressing on regardless.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Perfect Bike Components, Part 2

It really is a sweet seatpost. No bonding, plugging, welding. It's just one piece of alloy with an internal oval bore.

The Thomson seatpost is smartly done-- perfect combination of form and function. It's not got anything gimmicky on it and has a longer clamp to grab hold of your saddle and not let go.

This thing is about 15cm longer than the OEM carbon composite seatpost that came with my bike but it is lighter. And doubtless stronger, too.

Which is nice, because I've seen the ugly things composite seatposts can do when they break.

Now I just need a Thomson seatpost collar...

Adolescent obsessions...

Just a quick thought:

As a whole, our species is rather a bit immature. Look at various societies around the world and how they cling to "old ways" or traditions.

As individuals, when we grow up we leave behind what we came from and create something new for ourselves. A new identity.

As a species we seem to be having growing pains.

It seems to me that our obsession (especially in the USA) with automobiles is evidence of our immaturity. They're bad for us and our environment. They're loud and inefficient. Look at how they're marketed-- like extensions of one's ego and/or body. Symbols of status and power.

I've seen people do things in (or with) cars that they'd never try without their car. Like threaten another human. Destroy property. Kill animals on purpose.

Could you imagine someone walking down the sidewalk and then yell at a passerby "Ur yew a faggot??" Or lunging at another in a threatening manner? I imagine car horns and honking as the equivalent of yelling "HEY! HEY!" Could you imagine a pedestrian doing that to another? Someone almost bumps into them at the grocery store and it's "HEY! HEY! HEEEYYYY!!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Portland's bike boxes ripped my family apart!

No, not really. A couple of nights ago my wife summoned me into the living room to see the bit about the strange new traffic markings at the intersection of SE Hawthorne and 7th (Portland, OR). Great big green boxes reserved for bikes at the front of automobile traffic at an intersection. Beautiful. (Check out for more.)

Somehow my explanation of the function of the new bike box markings evolved into a heated (very heated) discussion about bikes in traffic. I was disappointed to discover my wife's attitudes towards bike in traffic weren't very accommodating. Typical of many motorists she cited the scofflaws as being the greater danger to traffic, not careless operators of 2-ton motorized vehicles.

To cut a long story short: I got an up close and personal glimpse into the mind and attitudes of an average motorist. Most telling was that she stated that she NEVER received ANY instruction (during driver training and subsequent DMV testing) on how to properly share the road with bikes and that, therefore, the burden of caution was on cyclists.

Cyclists need to watch out, not cars.

We are a car-centric society, aren't we.

Old Skool

Well I think my Cannondale is back. Haven't yet ridden it yet-- just picked it up* last week and then we spent the weekend in the snow. This weekend we're going to Forest Park. I can't not ride the F700 any longer. It's already been too long.

Anyway. I picked it up at the shop (one of those REAL bike shops that's a little worn around the edges from use) and one of the folks there commented: "Oh wow. That's 'old school'."

To which I replied: "What? The tires? I've always had a soft spot for Smokes." Even in college I caught flak for riding "those old-fashioned heavy things".

"No. The bike. Look at that Headshok. How old is that?"

"What? It's a 2001," I replied, just a teensy bit indignantly. Two of my four bikes are from 1989 and 1994.

"That's old. I have a 2004 and these guys tell me it's old."

Then we chatted about my totally retro drop bar. On an MTB. I was totally channeling Jacquie Phelen's spirit. (She's not dead yet!!)

Zonks! There's something fundamental there. An attitude revealed? Or just a friendly dig? I don't know. But I'm still a little uneasy thinking of bicycles as having lifespans similar to computers or any other electronic gadget. To me they don't. Or they shouldn't have. However, the cursed suspension technologies and electronic shifters DO rapidly date a bicycle. They stop working as well. The manufacturer stops making that particular component. Replacement parts become hard to find.

But my other three bike won't fall prey to the slings and arrows of technological obsolescence. No suspension. The 1989 Stumpjumper, once a 7-speed is now a singlespeed. The 1994 Cannondale road bike might not be far behind. I only have one HG-70 7-speed cassette left. Then what? Maybe I'll try some inexpensive Taiwanese cassette. If they're even available.

Even so it'll never be sidelined because some o-ring seal, or piston valve is no longer manufactured.

I still my F700 with its "old skool" Headshok. I look forward to many many more hours in the saddle. We've got races this summer!

*No. I did NOT engage in self-service this time around. Despite what my initial post may have stated. I DID knock out the top bearing, which was rusty, and flush it and repack it with grease. And I made my own tool out of a piece of pipe from Home Depot. I can now remove and re-install the fork at will. Booyah.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Brake cables are a drag...

Sometime last season (winter of '07) I noticed that the rear brake on my CX bike was performing in a bit sluggishly. I'd pull on the lever and it wouldn't snap back. There would be a little play. Damned annoying. So I adjusted the spring tension on the cantilever arms. All the way. And that barely did it.

So what happened? Where did that horrible drag come from? I replaced the cables and -- pfft -- nothing. Same draggy performance.

I pulled on the cable between the top tube stops and the cantis just snapped back the way they were supposed to. So the problem seems to be somewhere between the lever and the first stop on the TT. I guess.

So it's almost spring and the CX bike is getting a nice big fat overhaul. I even removed the boss sleeves on the Shortys and applied some grease. Annnnd new cables. Helloooo drag. I was sort of hoping for some sort of magical re-birth of the rear brake system. The lightest and smoothest of pulls at the lever. Naw.

At this point I'm thinking about moving the spring position on the canti boss itself to set the spring tension to a higher default. Having the adjusting screws all the way in on the cantis leaves me no room to... adjust.

I toyed with the idea of running cable housing all the way from the lever to the rear hanger. That works well enough on the road bike and with the BB7's on my MTB. I noticed that the 2008 Kona Major Jake has cable guides on the TT that will accommodate just such a thing. At least the bikes I saw the pros riding had such a setup. The front and rear cable stops were actually like hose guides. They had alloy inserts that made them into conventional stops. A middle guide was an open cradle with a slot for a zip-tie. So remove the alloy inserts, run yourcable housing all the way to the back hanger and tie it down in the middle with a zip tie. Nice. Options are good.

So. Is this going to be a stand-up fight or another bug hunt?

I think it's going to be another bug hunt.